The Buffalo Bills updated their vaccination policy at Highmark Stadium to include children ages 5 to 11 to abide by New York State mandates. They are the first NFL team to lower the age for a required vaccination at stadiums.
Those aged 5-11 will be required to show proof of at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine to enter the stadium, effective immediately. Guests must show proof via their physical vaccination card, an NYS Excelsior Pass that stores a digital copy of it or a government digital vaccine proof from outside of New York.
Previously, the policy was proof of vaccination for all guests 12 and older. Those ages 5 to 11 who were not vaccinated were required to wear a mask in the facility, per Erie County guidelines issued ahead of Thanksgiving as cases began to rise.
There are no exceptions to the policy, the team said, and negative COVID-19 tests are not accepted for entry.
Cases rise; children now fully vaccinated
Children ages 5-11 became eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine as of Nov. 3, 2021. Following dosage timelines, the earliest this group would be "fully vaccinated" was Dec. 10.
The change in status also comes amid a new wave of the coronavirus with the omicron variant. The state is experiencing a 102% rise in new daily cases over the past 14 days and a 23% increase in deaths over the past 14 days, per the New York Times.
In Erie County, numbers climbed in late November and officials instituted new guidelines as the hospitals reached a critical 90% capacity. The number of cases has dropped over the past two weeks, but the number of deaths from the coronavirus rose, via the Times.
Bills finish season at home
The Bills travel to the New England Patriots on Sunday and close out the season with a two-game homestand. They host the Atlanta Falcons on Jan. 2 and the New York Jets on Jan. 9.
Buffalo (8-6) is currently in the last AFC playoff spot with an estimated 86% chance at making the playoffs and a 46% chance of winning the AFC East over the Patriots, via ESPN. As of right now their first-round matchup would be against New England.
The Baltimore Ravens (8-6), Pittsburgh Steelers (7-6-1) are leading the large group of teams in the hunt.